Expendables (by Kathy Ann)

Summary:  A Missing Scene – What happens between the time the Gorillas fly out of Italy and the last scene at The Mansion back in England? The dialogue at the end in italics is from the episode (as best as I can remember it).
Category:  Garrison’s Gorillas
Genre:  WWII Drama
Rated:  PG
Word count:  6000


Lt. Craig Garrison (Warden, to his team) sat in the pilot’s seat of the German plane, his gaze alternating between the instrument panel and the gunfire outside. He turned to check on the passengers behind him just as Chief jumped into the aircraft and shut the door. Actor gave him the ‘Go’ sign. Garrison nodded in acknowledgment, turned in his seat and slowly pushed the throttles forward, sending the crowded plane down the runway.

Craig concentrated on his instruments and the runway as the plane gathered speed. Finally, the craft lifted gracefully, breaking its ties with the earth and began gaining altitude away from the pursuing Germans and toward safety — hopefully.

Actor continued to stare at Warden from his place at the back of the plane. He couldn’t shake the feeling that all was not right. He had noticed the beads of sweat on Craig’s face and the pinched look around his eyes. Earlier, Warden had needed his help in getting the flight jacket on and getting situated in the pilot’s seat. At one point, he heard his friend hiss in pain when his wounded shoulder accidentally bumped the side of the plane getting into the seat. ‘How much would Warden have to use that arm to fly this plane?’ Actor wondered to himself.

“General Brunner, how are you doing?” Major Richards asked.

The general, with his wounded leg stretched out in the tiny space available, turned and gave a small smile to Richards. “I’m fine, thank you.”

Richards rose carefully and made his way through the small, cramped plane to the cockpit and sat down in the co-pilot’s seat.

“Where are we headed?” Garrison asked as he glanced at the Major.

“I’ll contact my commander and find out,” Richards replied as he reached for the radio handset. “Hatchet, this is Fox 1. Come in Hatchet.”

The reply came almost immediately. “Fox 1, this is Hatchet. Go ahead.”

“Hatchet, we have our package. We ran into some difficulties and altered exit plans.”

“So we noticed. You missed your rendezvous for extraction. What about Fox 2?”

“We’re all together, Hatchet. It was Fox 2 who suggested our current means of transportation.”

“What was his suggestion, Fox 1?”

“‘Why walk when we can fly,’ Hatchet.”

There was a slight pause before Hatchet replied. “Understood. Tell Fox 2 he’s crazy.”

“He heard, Hatchet. What are your suggestions?”

“Stand by, Fox 1.”

Major Richards turned to face Garrison. He saw a small smile forming on his face.

“Mind telling me who Hatchet is, Major?” Garrison asked.

“Hatchet is Colonel Davis, Lieutenant.”

Craig started to chuckle but inhaled sharply as pain flared in his shoulder. Richards reached out a steadying hand. He gave Garrison a questioning look.

“I’m OK, Major. Colonel Davis and I have had very interesting ‘discussions’ about tactics — especially mine. It’s a long story.”

“Hatchet, calling Fox 1.” The radio squawk stopped any further discussion.

“Go ahead, Hatchet.”

“Ask Fox 2 if he remembers the airfield he crash landed on about a year and a half ago in North Africa.”

Craig nodded.

“That’s affirmative, Hatchet,” answered Richards.

“Tell him to try to keep the craft in one piece this time. Out.”

Richards stared at the radio mic. He could have sworn he heard laughter in the voice on the other end. He turned again to face Garrison. “Well, where are we heading?” Richards wasn’t quite sure what to make of this Lieutenant. Maybe his first impressions were wrong. He had certainly been wrong about his men.

“Algiers.”

“Algiers,” Richards repeated, more statement than question. “North Africa.”

“Right, Major. It’s not a long flight from here. I’m, going to need some help landing this thing. Don’t think my shoulder’s going to let me handle everything. Have you ever flown a plane before?”

“No, Lieutenant. My specialty is watercraft.”

“Would you mind asking Actor to come up here? He’s had some experience with planes.”

Major Richards made his way back to his seat. He got Actor’s attention and signaling with his thumb over his shoulder told him, “The Lieutenant needs you up there.”

Sharing a concerned glance with Chief, Actor rose and carefully walked forward to the cockpit. As he passed Goniff and Casino, he tried to give them a reassuring smile. They, too, were concerned about the flight and the Warden.

Dropping into the co-pilots seat, Actor turned his gaze onto Craig. He noticed again the beads of sweat on his face and could see the pain in his eyes. Warden seemed to be sitting very stiffly, as if he were trying not to move any more than necessary. ‘That shoulder is really starting to bother him,’ Actor thought. ‘Wish I could have removed the bullet.’

“Warden, how’s your shoulder?” Actor asked with concerned.

“I’ll be fine,” Garrison replied tersely. “I need…”

“That’s not what I asked,” Actor forcefully interrupted. Anger at Garrison’s stubbornness was starting to override his concern for the man.

The two stared at each other for several tense moments until, with a stuttering breath, Garrison broke eye contact. He returned his gaze to alternating between the instruments and out the window of the plane. Red flags and alarms went off in Actor’s mind, but he kept quiet and waited.

Quietly, Garrison began. “I think the wound is bleeding again. My whole shoulder is throbbing. Don’t know how much strength I have in the arm. I need to keep both hands on the controls.” He paused as if gathering strength to continue. “We’re going to be landing in Algiers soon and I’ll need you to work the throttle and flaps controls and read off altitude for me. Our approach will be from the Med, over the beach and onto the runway, hopefully. The winds can be tricky at times.”

“Warden, I’ve ne….”

“Don’t’ try to tell me you’ve never flown a plane before. I’ve read you dossier, remember? I know about that little jaunt you took out of Lyon.” Garrison gave him a stern look, but there was a twinkle in his eyes.

Actor sat open-mouthed for a second, then a smile graced his face. “I was just going to say that my landing left much to be desired.”

Craig returned his smile and continued. “I know. Just follow my instructions and we’ll get this bird on the ground in one piece.”

Actor’s eyes took on a faraway look. “I have never been to Algiers before. I’ve heard it’s an intriguing city.”

Major Richards, having returned to his seat, began conversing quietly with General Brunner.

“Hey, Richards,” Casino interrupted with a smile, “where are we headed?”

Richards turned to face Casino, frowning at the lack of respect. “We’ll be landing in Algiers. If…”

“Algiers!”  Goniff chimed in. “That’s in North Africa!

“Brilliant, Goniff. You know your geography.” Casino slapped him playfully on the back.

“But I tho’t we was ‘eading for England!”

During this conversation, Chief was sitting in the back of the plane with a growing feeling that all was not as it should be. He felt the plane give a slight shudder as he got up and headed for the cockpit. Glancing out the window over Goniff’s shoulder, he noticed smoke streaming from the engine. “Not in this plane, we ain’t,” he commented, motioning out the window as he continued forward.

Goniff turned and gazed at the smoking engine. “Blimey!”

Casino, Richards and Brunner joined Goniff in staring at the stricken engine. Chief made it to the cockpit to find the Warden giving instructions and Actor quickly and efficiently following them. Actor and Craig both watched out the window as the propeller finally stopped spinning with a loud clank. The smoke ceased. The engine was dead.

Craig turned back to the instruments and concentrated very hard on keeping the plane flying level with only the one engine. Chief could see the strain on the Warden’s face and turned to Actor with a questioning glance.

Actor knew Chief was concerned and wanted some answers to his unspoken questions. “We’ll be landing in Algiers in about 20 minutes. With the two of us on the controls, we should be able to land OK. The Warden’s shoulder wound is becoming a problem. It’s started to bleed again, but there is nothing we can do about now.”

Chief placed a hand on Craig’s right shoulder. “Warden?”

“Don’t worry, Chief. We’ll get this bird on the ground OK.”

“What about your shoulder?”

“Like Actor said, nothing we can do about it now. We’ll take care of it after we land.” Craig’s voice was strained. Chief could see the pain etched in the lines around his eyes.

“Chief,” Actor directed, “make sure everyone is seated and secured. The landing could be a little rough. Warden says we might have some crosswinds and with only one engine, things could get interesting.” He gave a small smile of encouragement. Chief nodded in understanding and turned to make sure everyone was ready for the upcoming landing.

*****

“Watch the air speed…half flaps.” Warden gave instructions to Actor as he concentrated on lining up with the end of the runway.

“Fox 2, you’re a little low. Bring your nose up or you’ll hit the sand.” The control tower was also helping as best they could.

Craig made some slight corrections in his glide angle as Actor lowered the landing gear. In the back of the plane, no one was talking. Facing backwards, they couldn’t tell where they were going, but they could look out the windows and see the water getting closer and closer.

“We’re over the beach,” Casino announced in relief. They all breathed a little easier until the plane seemed to jump upward then sideways. Garrison was fighting for control.

“Crosswinds,” Actor hollered back to them between reading off the altitude to Garrison. “One hundred meters…fifty…we’re over the end of the runway. Hang on, back there!”

The wheels touched the runway briefly then bounced into the air. When the wheels hit the ground a second time, it was with enough force to blow the left tire. Garrison and Actor were busy using throttles, flaps, and breaks to bring their craft to a stop. The blown tire caused the plane to slew to the left and off the runway. The loose sand acted as another breaking mechanism. Following the plane down the runway was a jeep, a fire vehicle, an ambulance, and a covered truck.

The plane stopped. With the remaining engine shut down, the sudden silence was eerie. The blown tire and broken wheel assembly caused the plane to lean to the left till the tip of the wing came to rest on the ground. The stress caused the wing to snap half way between the engine and the tip, leaving the plane canted such that the hatch was only an easy step from the ground.

For a few moments, no one moved. Then they all seemed to take a breath together. Chief opened the hatch and hopped out, watching the vehicles as they sped up the runway to the disabled plane. He stood to the right side of the open hatch with his rifle slung over his shoulder. Turning back to the open hatch, Chief aided Gen. Brunner as he exited the plane. Major Richards was right behind him. Goniff and Casino quickly followed.

Gen. Brunner, with support from Major Richards, began limping toward the runway. The jeep halted in from of them. Col. Davis stood in the jeep, surveying the scene before him: a German plane crashed on his runway, three armed men in German uniforms beside the plane, and two more standing directly in front of his jeep.

“Col. Davis,” Richards saluted, “may I present Gen. Brunner.”

Davis returned the salute. “General, glad to finally meet you. Sorry your trip did not go smoothly.” He paused, noticing the bandage on the general’s leg. “You’re injured.”

Turning back toward the ambulance, Davis hollered, “Doc! Get over here!

“That’s not necessary, Colonel. My injury is only a flesh wound -– painful, but not serious. Your lieutenant, now…he may be in need of your doctor’s assistance.”

They all looked toward the plane just as Garrison was being helped from the plane by Chief and Actor. Craig was cradling his left arm with his right and leaning against the side of the plane.

“He is a remarkable young man, Colonel. I gather that his men are not regular military.”

 “They’re actually convicts trying to earn their paroles,” Major Richards answered, before Col. Davis could reply

“Ahhh! Men, who in normal life, find it difficult to trust anyone but themselves, yet, your lieutenant had molded them into a very efficient unit -– resourceful, effective –- something that only comes from mutual trust and respect. Look at them, Colonel, Major.”

Davis and Richards both looked and saw that the four men -– Actor, Chief, Casino, and Goniff -– had subconsciously formed a protective ring around their injured leader. They presented a formidable force for anyone who would be so foolish as to try to do anything to them or their Warden.

“Colonel,” Brunner continued, “if it were not for Lt. Garrison and his men, I would not be here.

Col. Davis huffed, then shook his head and smiled. “General, you are correct in saying that Lt. Garrison is remarkable -– foolhardy at times -– but remarkable.

Turning to his driver and the doctor, who had just quickly checked out the general’s leg wound, Davis issued his commands. “Capt. MacDonald, stay here and assist Doc and take care of these men. Let them get cleaned up, with uniforms of the proper army, and get them some hot food.”

“Doc, see to Lt. Garrison’s wound,” continued the Colonel. “He has a habit of forgetting that he’s human like the rest of us.” Addressing the Captain again, he added, “I’ll take the General and Major Richards over to HQ.”

“Yes, Sir,” Capt. MacDonald replied with a smile. He and Doc walked toward the plane.

“Well, Lieutenant, I see you still have not mastered the art of landing a plane in one piece.” MacDonald tried to sound gruff, but the twinkle in his eyes and broad smile gave him away.

Garrison looked up, finally recognizing the speaker. “Mac?”

“Hey now!” Casino interrupted. “I’d like to see you do better with a shot up plane running on only one engine.”

“Yeah,” added Goniff, “and with only one good arm.”

Chief said nothing -– just moved between Garrison and Mac. Actor edged closer to the Warden’s right to help support him as he pushed away from the plane.

Placing his good hand on Chief’s shoulder, Craig spoke slowly, having to concentrate on each word. “It’s OK, guys. Mac and I were at The Point together.” Craig stepped around Chief, stumbled and would have fallen face first on the ground but for the quick reactions of Chief and MacDonald.

“Doc!”

Doc immediately knelt down beside Garrison and began checking him out. He carefully opened Craig’s jacket and shirt and assessed his shoulder wound. With a small frown on his face, he turned to Captain MacDonald. “We need to get this man into surgery. Now!”

Chief, Actor, Goniff, and Casino all reacted to this news with shocked expressions on their faces. Orderlies quickly brought a stretcher over, and Actor and Mac gently lifted Garrison onto it. The orderlies carried the stretcher to the ambulance and carefully placed it inside. Doc followed them and they took off for the hospital.

The others were still standing there, mute. Mac read concern and maybe a little fear on their faces. “Doc knows what he’s doing. Craig’s in good hands,” he consoled. “Come on, fellows, hop in the truck and I’ll take you to the hospital. You can get cleaned up and eat something while we wait.”

An hour and a half later found Actor, Chief, Casino, and Goniff, along with Captain MacDonald, ensconced around a table in the mess hall, finishing plates of stew.

“I’m not waiting any longer,” Casino suddenly announced. Pushing his chair back, he stood and turned toward the door. The others were rising to follow when the door opened and Doc walked in.

“How is he, Doc?” Casino asked, blocking Doc from completely entering the room.

“Just a minute,” Doc replied, placing a hand on Casino’s chest to stop him from going any further. “Let’s all sit down. I need some coffee.”

They all returned to their table. Mac went to the kitchen and came back with a full coffee pot and a cup for Doc. Doc filled his cup, closed his eyes, and took a grateful sip.

“Well?” blurted Goniff. “How is the Warden?”

Opening his eyes, Doc saw before him five very concerned men sitting rigid in their chairs. He set his cup down and smiled. “He’s going to be just fine.”

It was as if someone let all the air out of them on hearing that news. They all slumped over, leaning their arms on the table in relief, smiles slowly forming as they looked from one to another.

Actor, still feeling somewhat guilty that he didn’t do a better job of treating Garrison, asked Doc the question they all were thinking. “How bad was it, Doctor?”

Glancing around the, table then focusing on Actor, the doctor replied, “Well, not as bad as it could have been. There was some infection, but not nearly as much as I expected. The collar bone was broken, but not misplaced, and I removed a couple of small bone chips. The biggest issue was the location of the bullet. It was resting within millimeters of the major nerve.”

Doc paused for a sip of coffee and noticed Actor hanging on his every word. Doc surmised he was the one who had taken care of Lt. Garrison’s wound. Was he feeling fear, or guilt, or a combination of both? “You know, if someone untrained had tried to remove that bullet, he could have done some permanent damage. As it is, Lt. Garrison will need physical therapy and will be out of commission four to six weeks.”

Doc refilled his cup then rose from the table. “Well, I’d better be getting back. By the way, Col. Davis told me to tell you he wants to see you all at HQ right away. Captain MacDonald can take you there. When you’re finished there, come by the hospital; the lieutenant will be settled in a room and you’ll be able to see him.”

Actor got up and followed Doc to the door. “Doc, are you sure he’ll make a complete recovery?”

Doc placed his hand on Actor’s shoulder, and looked him in the eye. “Son, with rest and therapy, he’s going to be just fine. You did a good job taking care of him.” Doc smiled at the surprised look on Actor’s face, squeezed his shoulder in encouragement, then turned and left the building.

“Gentlemen,” Captain MacDonald announced. “I suggest we not keep Col. Davis waiting.” They filed out of the mess hall and Mac led them to the HQ. There they were met by an aide who immediately ushered them into Col. Davis’s office.

Col. Davis was sitting behind his desk just completing a radio call. Standing behind Actor, Chief, Casino and Goniff, Captain MacDonald came to attention and gave a sharp salute. Col. Davis rose and saluted in return. The others, the colonel noticed, were almost at attention and their salutes were half-hearted, which was a generous description. Lowering his arm, he glanced back at Cap. MacDonald. Mac had a large smile on his face as he shrugged his shoulders. Col. Davis had a difficult time keeping a straight face and focused on some papers on his desk to regain his composure before he spoke.

Looking up, Col. Davis addressed the men. “I’ve arranged transport back to England for you. You’ll be leaving by plane at 1400 hours tomorrow. Cap. Mac…”

“What about the War…um…Lt. Garrison?” interrupted Actor. “Will he be ready to travel by then?”

“That will be up to the doctor. If he’s not, then…”

“But ‘e ‘as to go with us!”

“We can’t go back without him!”

“I ain’t goin’ ‘less he goes!”

“We have to go back together!”

The Gorillas all spoke at once as they moved directly in front of Davis’s desk. Col. Davis involuntarily backed up with this onslaught.

“Gentlemen! Enough! Unless you want to be held under guard until you leave, I suggest you immediately back up and keep your mouths shut.”

“Colonel,” began Actor smoothly, completely ignoring the colonel’s order, “please accept our apology. It’s just that in our particular circumstances, we really cannot go back without Lt. Garrison. You can understand that, can you not?”

“Colonel,” added Capt. MacDonald, placing himself between the Gorillas and Col. Davis, “these men are just exhausted and greatly concerned about their leader. The doctor told us that we would be able to see Lt. Garrison after we were finished here. Maybe I could take the men and go to the hospital now, and we can see what the doctor has to say.”

“Very well, Captain. But I meant what I said about these men being placed under guard.” He lowered his voice so only the Captain could hear. “It was hard enough when Lt. Garrison was stationed here, trying to keep him from doing things his own way. With him and his men here, I do not want things to get out of hand.” Although he said this seriously, Cap. MacDonald could see concern and fondness for the lieutenant in his commanding officer’s eyes.

“Colonel, we’ll head over to the hospital. I’ll call you as soon as I talk to the doctor.” Cap. MacDonald saluted and turned and escorted the men out of the office.

No one spoke much as they trudged to the hospital. They were exhausted -– and concerned.

Doc was at the desk as they entered. He turned and gave them an encouraging smile. “Gentlemen, I was just going to call Col. Davis’s office. Lt. Garrison is awake and has been asking about you all. Follow me and I’ll take you to his room.”

They were all smiles! The men followed him with more spring in their steps. Outside the room, Doc paused. “He’s awake, but he will tire quickly. Remember, he’s just come out of surgery.” He opened the door and Actor led the group in. MacDonald stopped and after conferring with Doc, he went to call Col. Davis as he promised.

Actor, Chief, Casino, and Goniff arranged themselves around Garrison’s bed. The head of the bed was raised slightly. Craig’s eyes were closed, but opened when he sensed them around him. He looked from one to the other, checking them over and smiled. “You guys look like death warmed over,” he rasped.

“Ha!” replied Casino. “That’s the pot calling the kettle black!”

Actor reached for the water pitcher and poured Craig a glass, holding it for him to take a sip.

“Thanks, Actor.”

They had talked for about ten minutes, when Doc noticed Garrison tiring. “I think that’s enough for now. The lieutenant needs his rest.”

“Doc,” Actor asked, “is he able to make the flight tomorrow?” All eyes turned to the doctor, anxious about the answer.

“As I just sent word to Col. Davis -– no, he’s not.” The men stood stunned at the news. “That is,” he continued with a smile, “unless I travel with him. Capt. MacDonald should be returning shortly with the colonel’s answer to my request to be on that transport tomorrow to keep an eye on him. I think he’ll agree with my request.” Doc smiled to put the men at ease.

MacDonald entered the room at that moment. “Doc, guess you get to do a little sightseeing in London. Col. Davis okayed your request.”

The Gorillas visibly relaxed. Actor shook Doc’s hand. “Doc, if it’s alright with you, we would like to stay here tonight. There are a couple of extra beds in here and a couple of chairs. We won’t bother the Warden, we just want…well, we…”

“I understand, Actor. I think that would be fine -– as long as you all get some sleep. You’re dead on your feet and Lt. Garrison needs his rest, too. I’ll have some extra blankets brought in.

“Thank you, doctor. Thanks for everything.” Actor again shook Doc’s hand. Before he could leave the room, Doc shook hands with the rest, all giving him their thanks with words and smiles.

After blankets were brought to the room, the men settled down for the night. Actor and Goniff each took a bed, Casino made himself comfortable on the floor with extra blankets and pillows, and Chief took a chair and placed it beside the head of Warden’s bed near the window. MacDonald said his good nights and left for his own quarters, promising to return early the next morning.

*****

Garrison was awake talking quietly to Chief when, as promised, Mac returned the next morning at 0700 along with Doc, who went immediately to Crag’s bedside. Mac joined the others at the foot of the bed.

“How are you feeling this morning, lieutenant?” Doc queried. “And don’t answer ‘fine’ because I know better.” He smiled at the look of surprise on Garrison’s face. Chief, Actor, and the rest tried unsuccessfully to hide their smiles and snickers, even after Garrison attempted to silence them with ‘the look’.

Craig sighed, and then with a slight smile, replied, “Actually, as long as I don’t try to move my shoulder I do feel pretty good. The night of rest certainly helped.”

Doc eyed him carefully. When he was satisfied that Craig was being truthful he said, “Good. When you have finished your breakfast, I’ll be back in to check your wound and change the bandages. We’ll begin getting everything ready for the flight to England shortly after lunch. I still want you to try to get as much rest a possible.” As he made this last remark, he gazed at each of the others in the room, making sure they understood what he meant. “Lieutenant, your breakfast will be here shortly. The rest of you can go over to the mess hall. I ask that you not return until after 1000 hours. I really do need to do a thorough check of your lieutenant’s wound.”

Goniff, Casino, Actor, and lastly, Chief all said their goodbyes and left with Cap. MacDonald. Before Doc could leave, Craig stopped him. “Doc?” he questioned. “What’s with my shoulder? What’s the prognosis?”

Doc turned and looked Craig right in the eyes. “You’re a very lucky man, Lieutenant. First, there was only minimal infection. Second, as you might have guessed, you collar bone was hit by the bullet and is broken. During surgery to remove the bullet, I also removed two bone chips. Thirdly, the bullet did some muscle damage, but there was no nerve damage. As I said, you are very lucky.” Doc paused in his explanation.

“Why do I sense a ‘but’ coming?” Craig asked with concern.

“Very perceptive, Lieutenant,” Doc replied with a smile. “The only ‘but’, as you might guess, is that you will be out of commission for about four to six weeks. You’ll need some physical therapy, but I don’t foresee any long term problems. In fact, I’d be willing to wager that you’ll be back at it in closer to four weeks. I sense you’re one of those men who hates being inactive.”

Garrison relaxed slightly back into his pillow. He considered what he’d just heard as good news. “Thanks, Doc.”

At that moment, a nurse brought in Garrison’s breakfast tray. Doc excused himself as the nurse aided Craig to sit up and arranged the tray on the bed table in front of him. He thanked her and smiled at her. She returned his smile and left the room.

*****

At 1345, all the men were aboard the plane that would take them back to England. Mac had come aboard to say his final goodbyes. “Listen, Craig, the next time you’re going to ‘drop in’, give me a little more notice. I might be able to arrange some time off and I can show you the sights.” They both laughed. Shaking hands one final time with Craig, Mac turned and walked down the aisle of the plane. Actor, Chief, Casino, and Goniff all shook his hand warmly and again thanked him for all his help. The flight engineer followed Mac, securing the hatch after he left the plane.

Stopping at Garrison’s litter, the flight engineer assisted Doc in checking and rechecking the straps that held it securely to the floor. “All set, Doc?” he asked.

“Ready as we’ll ever be. Make it a smooth flight, will you?”

“Sure thing, Doc. As smooth as floating in your bathtub,” the flight engineer replied with a smile. He returned to his station and shortly the four engines were warmed up and they were taxiing toward the runway. After a short pause at the end of the runway, the plane began shaking slightly as it began to accelerate over the ground, then it smoothly lifted into the sky heading for England.

*****

Dressed in a freshly pressed uniform and with a fresh, white sling on his arm, Craig Garrison was pacing his hospital room like a caged lion. He paused to gaze out of the window. He was waiting rather impatiently for the doctor to come with his signed discharge papers. It had been three weeks since his return to England; his shoulder was healing nicely, and his physical therapist was surprised at how quickly he was recovering normal movement and strength in his arm.

The door opened, and Craig, expecting to see the doctor, turned with a smile on his face. The smile faded slightly when he recognized Major Richards standing in the doorway.

“Lieutenant, it’s good to see you back on your feet again. I…ah…I wanted to stop by sooner, but G2 has kept me busy going over all the information we got from General Brunner.” Major Richards paused then continued. “How are you feeling?” Richards was beginning to feel uncomfortable as Garrison continued to stare at him.

Craig leaned back against the window sill. “I’m doing good. Actually, I’m expecting the doctor any time now with my discharge papers.” Craig sensed that Richards wanted something. “Is there something I can do for you?”

Richards stepped into the room and placed his briefcase on a chair. Taking a deep breath, he began. “I wanted to see you to apologize to you.”

“That’s not nece…”

“Please, hear me out,” interrupted Richards. He continued, “I was wrong in thinking your men were worth less than mine just because they were cons. I assumed they only did what you told them to do because it would eventually earn them their pardons. I thought it was a sign of weakness to show concern for or develop a relationship with my men other than what was necessary to complete an assignment. I have come to realize that the bond you have with your men does not weaken your group, but adds strength to it. You not only work as a single unit, you think as one also. You took a bunch of misfits and turned them into one of the most successful Special Forces units we have. On some level, I guess I was jealous of your success. I wanted to put you in your place. I was wrong. That’s why I’m hoping you will accept my apology.”

Craig was silent for a few moments before he answered. “Major, I’m glad you’ve finally realized that the worth of a man doesn’t depend on whether he’s come from a military academy, or through basic training, or even from prison. A man proves his worth, not by some label or rank that someone else puts on him, but by what he does with the abilities he has.

“As far as my men and I are concerned, our bond, as you call it, rests on our mutual trust and in understanding each other’s strengths and weaknesses and working with them. We have each other’s backs. Oh, we have our disagreements and occasional arguments, as you saw before this mission. But, when it comes right down to it, we work together to get our assignment done to the best of our combined abilities.”

Lt. Garrison stood before Major Richards and offered his hand. “Apology accepted, Major.” Richards firmly shook his hand with feelings of understanding and relief.

At that moment, the doctor knocked and entered the room. “Well, Lieutenant, I have your discharge papers all signed -– but there are some conditions.”

Craig sighed in resignation. “OK, Doc. What are they?” Major Richards quietly smiled at Garrison’s reaction.

“You’re based near Archbury, correct?”

“Yes, sir. It’s about a half hour drive.”

“Good. My friend, Doctor Kaiser, is stationed there. He has agreed to complete you physical therapy, saving you staying here in London for at least another week.”

 Craig smiled.

“You will need to see him at least three times this next week. When HE feels you are sufficiently recovered, he will sign you off to return to active duty. Don’t try to put anything over on him.” The doctor smiled. “He’s used to working with those flyboys of the 918th bomber group, and knows all the tricks.”

Craig just gave the doctor a larger smile, shook his hand and, agreeing, said, “Thanks, Doc. Thanks for everything.” He took the offered discharge papers and saluted. Returning the salute, the doctor left the room.

“So, Lieutenant, may I offer you a ride back to your mansion?” offered Richards.

“Yes, Major. Thank you.”

Richards assisted Craig in gathering his things and they walked out to the Major’s waiting car. They talked some on the ride from London, Craig warning Richards that his men had been confined to the mansion grounds for three weeks. He knew that they had snuck off to the pub in the village a few times, but without incident.

When they reached The Mansion, they first went to Craig’s room and deposited his things. Then Garrison led Richards upstairs to the room where the men usually stayed. As they walked down the hall, they could hear what sounded like an argument between Casino and Goniff. Craig glanced at Richards and was surprised to see him looking back, shaking his head and smiling. Craig just smiled in return and shrugged his shoulders, grateful that things were getting back to normal.

Entering the room, they found Casino acting as if he was going to toss Goniff out the window. Goniff was the first to notice that Garrison was back -– and Major Richards was with him.

“Hey, Warden! How are you? So your arm’s alright then?” Goniff asked while untangling himself from Casino’s grasp.

“Fine,” Garrison replied softly.

Walking over to the table, Goniff saluted Major Richards. “Major, Sir. How you doin’?”

Richards eyed Goniff and the others with a small crooked smile. Garrison glance at him amused at the situation. Casino joined Goniff standing at the table, very unsure of what was up with Richards and the Warden as well.

Resting his briefcase on the table and holding it by its handles, Richards announced, “I was just leaving and I thought…”  He opened the case revealing a bottle of “the good stuff” as Goniff would later testify. Sitting down, Richards watched with amusement their reactions. Wary yet curious, Actor and Chief joined the others at the table. They all stood there waiting — for what, they weren’t quite sure.

Richards finally broke the tension by taking the bottle and announcing, “I’ll pour.”

***The End***

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